New guidance for wind farm planning applications

Guidance designed to make planning applications for wind energy developments run more smoothly for developers, planning authorities and the communities affected has been published by the Scottish Government.

The guidance is a consequence of the GP Wind Project, a Scottish-Government led EU project which looked at the barriers to development of wind energy and ways of reconciling renewable energy objectives with environmental concerns, and actively involving communities in the planning process.

The guidance was developed in partnership with a wide range of interested parties, including the RSPB, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, SSE and Scottish Power Renewables.

The Good Practice Guide includes around 70 recommendations supported by over 130 examples of good practices, in three different categories; minimising environmental impact; optimising social acceptance; and optimising (spatial) planning. There are a number of separate notes in each of the categories on e.g. cumulative impacts, communication and proximity to housing.

An “onshore wind taskforce” was also announced to look at ways to improve the planning consent process for onshore wind while keeping communities involved, consulted and informed, by bringing key players in the planning system, including the Scottish Government, developers and statutory consultees (including Scottish Natural Heritage, SEPA, and planning authorities) together to critically examine current procedures.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said:

“I’m delighted to launch these materials, developed with industry, planning authorities and stakeholders, which aim to make the planning process for wind developments go more smoothly for everyone involved. The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places, and this guidance will help to ensure that while also making sure there are fewer unsuitable applications and that communities are properly consulted and informed. We have set an ambitious, but achievable, renewable energy target and we are determined to ensure that communities all over Scotland benefit from our renewable energy revolution, which is already bringing jobs and investment. But we are determined that this should be done in an sustainable way, sympathetic to the needs of communities and protecting the environment and our fantastic natural heritage. This project supports our drive to promote engagement with communities and consultees from the very beginning of a plan’s development.”

Comment

The GP Wind project and guidance are positive steps forward in building a collective understanding of the different challenges and objectives facing developers, landowners, communities and other interested bodies, by encouraging the sharing of good practice across the renewable energy industry. Renewable energy objectives are reconciled with the wider environmental objectives and communities are actively involved in planning and implementation.

The intention is to support more effective and efficient deployment of renewable energy in support of the Scottish Government’s 2020 targets.

Click here to download a copy of the Good Practice Guide.